Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported Facebook executives allegedly shut down internal research showing the platform increased political polarization and declined to make changes that might make the platform less divisive.
Why might Facebook be reluctant to reduce polarization on its platform? Our study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, might offer an answer.
Polarizing posts are more likely to go viral
We analyzed nearly 3 million U.S.-based tweets and Facebook posts to examine what social media posts that go “viral” have in common. We specifically looked at political posts, including those by members of Congress or left- and right-leaning media outlets. The results were stark.
The most viral posts tended to be about the opposing political party. Facebook posts and tweets about one’s political out-group (that is, the party opposed to one’s own) were shared about twice as often as those about one’s own political group. Posts about the opposition were almost exclusively negative.
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